It is not so much the Springboks’ loss to Australia, but rather the reaction to it that has alarm bells ringing for iafrica.com Sports Editor Rob Peters.
I would hate to see what Jean de Villiers considers the ‘wrong track’, because if he genuinely believes he and his team are moving in the right direction after the loss to Australia over the weekend, then South African rugby supporters should be worried.
Coach Heyneke Meyer predictably pointed to inexperience and bemoaned a couple of ‘soft moments’ costing his team this game, but the reality is that an archaic gameplan, poor selections in key positions and the team’s inability to contest the breakdown is what continues to thwart this side’s efforts.
After the draw to the Pumas in Mendoza, I wrote that the gameplan was dragging the team back into the Stone Age. I still believe that, and I simply cannot fathom how a coach of Meyer’s pedigree is so unwilling to make changes, despite the poor showing of the team over the past four matches they have played.
It would be foolish of me to deny that our pack is inexperienced, but surely with such a green pack we should not be employing a gameplan that is so reliant on forward domination? If the Boks cannot get on top of a Wallaby pack, they are going to be in for a long, hard slog against the All Blacks.
Surely the Boks should be looking at getting quick ball, as opposed to slowing it down? Yet Ruan Pienaar took an age to get the ball out of the ruck – even kicking it back twice on one occasion – and when it finally did go out, it did not take long for the ball to go the aerial route…
This is easily the worst Wallabies line-up we have seen in over 10 years, yet we struggled to put them away in the first half – butchering more than one opportunity – and fell to pieces in the second half. That is a worrying sign and one that cannot be explained away purely by pointing to inexperience.
Morne Steyn is one of the most experienced players in the line-up, yet he continues to struggle in all aspects of his game. His option-taking was abysmal, his defence was porous and his kicking continues to be an issue. Meyer’s faith in his first-choice flyhalf could be seen as admirable, but there comes a time when that faith needs to be repaid.
The same can be said for fullback Zane Kirchner, who while solid enough, simply should not be commanding a place in the side, while a player like Pat Lambie rides the bench. Captain Jean de Villiers is another senior player that went missing against the Wallabies in Perth.
Marcell Coetzee was the best player for the Boks - he is also one of the most inexperienced.
Meyer is looking to buy some time, and that is understandable, but he also needs to see the wood for the trees before he is unable to salvage anything from his first season in charge. The gameplan is outdated. That much is obvious. It is predictable and easily nullified. We have backline players capable of doing something other than kick and chase and we certainly have forwards that can do more than smash into a defensive wall in the hope of breaking it open.
Meyer clearly thinks otherwise.
According to Meyer, it is not the gameplan that is the problem, but rather the execution of it. When it clicks, the Boks will be unstoppable. Yet why do I get the feeling we are going backwards? Could it be because we are watching the same gameplan that failed under the tenure of Peter de Villiers?
The hype that came with the appointment of Meyer as coach was overwhelming. Many felt the Boks would finally begin to move forward under his guidance, but to date, he has only shown a penchant for the past. Four years ago Meyer should have got the job.
Unfortunately, it seems like we have the Meyer of four years ago leading this side. The problem is that what worked four years ago is not going to work now. His supporters are quick to point to his success with the Bulls, but what they fail to realise is that Meyer is not being judged on his ability as the coach of the Bulls, but rather of the Springboks and things are not looking all that flash on that front.